The Cleveland Indians opened their American League title defense with a 4-0 home victory over the New York Yankees at Progressive Field on Thursday in Game 1 of the American League Division Series.
Entering the game, many questioned whether Indians manager Terry Francona was making a mistake by waiting to start his ace, Corey Kluber, until Game 2 of the ALDS. Francona instead gave the Game 1 start to Trevor Bauer, who had a career-best 3.88 FIP in the regular season, per Baseball Reference.
The gamble paid off in spades as Bauer pitched 6.2 scoreless innings and struck out eight batters. The right-hander had a no-hitter through 5.1 innings before Aaron Hicks doubled in the sixth. According to ESPN Stats & Info, it was the longest no-hit bid in Indians postseason history.
FanGraphs' Travis Sawchik thought Bauer's dominance demonstrated the need for patience with young pitchers:
Travis Sawchik @Travis_Sawchik
Bauer is a reminder to never give up on a young, talented arm. The Diamondbacks gave up on him 16 months after drafting him third overall2017-10-6 01:56:59
Indians pitchers combined to allow three hits in the game.
Francona had the magic touch, as his decision to play Jason Kipnis in center field led to the best defensive play of the game. Kipnis, who played in the outfield 11 times in the regular season after spending all of his career at second base, made a diving catch in the top of the third to rob Chase Headley of a leadoff double.
MLB provided a replay of the catch:
.@TheJK_Kid channels The Kid. #ALDS https://t.co/fZLEMOAbzG2017-10-6 00:37:33
MLB.com's Jordan Bastian shared the Statcast data behind the play:
Jordan Bastian @MLBastian
Details of Kipnis' diving robbery: 26% catch probability 88 ft covered 4.7-sec opportunity time 4-Star catch Per @statcast2017-10-6 00:36:15
Jay Bruce produced the bulk of the offense for Cleveland. The veteran outfielder nearly ended up with the Yankees before he landed with the Indians in a trade from the New York Mets, and the Indians couldn't help but get in a dig during the game:
AL Central champs! @Indians
Jay Bruce is on our team because our owner wrote a check that competitors for Jay wouldn't. https://t.co/nIIff4RMcZ2017-10-6 00:57:27
Bruce led off the bottom of the second with a double to left field and later scored the Indians' first run when Roberto Perez grounded into a double play. In the bottom of the fourth, he hit a two-run home run over the right-field fence to put Cleveland ahead 3-0.
MLB shared a replay of the homer:
All together now … BRUUUUUUCE. https://t.co/OtnqR76f7g2017-10-6 01:16:20
Bruce brought the Indians' fourth run home in the bottom of the fifth when he hit a sacrifice fly that plated Jose Ramirez.
The four runs were more than enough run support for Cleveland. After Bauer exited the game in the seventh, Andrew Miller pitched a scoreless inning and Cody Allen came on to make a four-out save.
The series stays in Cleveland for Game 2, with the first pitch scheduled for 5 p.m. ET Friday evening. CC Sabathia, who won a Cy Young Award with the Indians in 2007, will oppose Kluber, who's a strong candidate to earn his second Cy Young this year.
Sabathia finished the regular season 14-5 with a 3.69 ERA in 27 starts and has yet to face Cleveland in 2017. Kluber went 18-4 with an MLB-best 2.25 ERA. He made two starts against the Yankees in the regular season, holding them to three earned runs in 17 innings.